Mostly NBA Notes: Deron Williams, Ricky Rubio and John Wall all point guards on the rise

Deron Williams has been a disappointment for fantasy owners this season. He currently ranks as the No. 34 ranked player on the year, which is hardly terrible, but he was drafted as a top-15 guy, and it’s taken him being the No. 9 player over the past month to get back into the top-50. Since joining New Jersey/Brooklyn 2+ years ago, Williams has shot 41.1 percent from the floor, well below his career mark (45.2). A big part of the problem has been health, mainly ankle issues. In fact, Williams has essentially stopped driving to the basket this season, averaging just 2.6 attempts at the rim per game, which is a career low by a huge margin. However, since receiving PRP injections in his ankles during the All-Star break, he’s looked like a different player with the pain now gone, averaging 23.3 ppg, 7.9 apg, 1.1 spg and 3.4 3pt while shooting 46.7 percent from the field over 13 games, highlighted by this terrific performance in which he set an NBA record with nine threes before halftime (he was 7-for-7 from downtown with three minutes left in the first quarter). You want a critique on the +/- stat? Look no further than that particular game’s box score, comparing Williams with Joe Johnson. The cortisone shot was actually Williams’ third of the season, so this by no means should be considered a problem completely fixed, but a full offseason of rest (he’s admitted playing in the Olympics took its toll last year) should do him good. One other minor area of concern at least worth pointing out when it comes to Williams’ fantasy value is that Brooklyn’s Pace (91.0) ranks dead last in the NBA, so hopefully that changes moving forward. Still, it’s nice to see Williams, who not that long ago was in the conversation as best point guard in the league, back playing well again.

Last week I declared Blake Griffin’s alley-oop from Jamaal Crawford the leader for dunk of the year, but quickly a new candidate emerged.

This guy needed to make a layup, a free throw, a three-pointer and a half court shot to win $50,000. He forgot one of them.

Since a sluggish start after returning from knee surgery, Ricky Rubio has been filling up the stat sheet over the past six weeks. Over his past 18 games, he’s averaged 13.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 9.4 apg and 2.9 spg (his 53 steals lead the NBA over that span, as he’s been on a historic run). Rubio has been the 52nd ranked fantasy player over this 18-game stretch, and while that’s plenty impressive, continued poor shooting and a high turnover rate prevent him from entering truly elite territory. But all those assists and steals from a 22-year-old still recovering from knee surgery while seeing limited minutes reveal a ton of upside. His 4.6 rpg since rejoining the starting lineup would also be the second-best in the NBA among all point guards if he qualified, behind only Russell Westbrook (5.2). Rubio’s FG% has improved each month this year, although it still has a long way to go. In fact, he’s below league average across the board: at the rim (48.3%), 3-9 feet (26.3%), 10-15 feet (13.3%, 13.3!), 16-23 feet (36.0%) and three-pointers (20.8%). Still, we are talking about someone who has top-10 fantasy upside if his shot ever improved to even just league average, and he has plenty of time to get there. Here’s Rubio displaying what I’d call above average ball handling ability.

This Gatorade bath didn’t go exactly as planned, to say the least.

This is one of the most bizarre finishes ever. Up one point and with the ball, this player scores on his own team’s basket at the buzzer.

Martell Webster has quietly become an interesting under the radar fantasy option. Over the past two months, he’s averaged a whopping 2.7 3pt, and he’s a strong FT shooter (86.3 percent) and rarely turns the ball over (1.2 tpg). Admittedly, most of his bigger games have come when Bradley Beal has been sidelined, but Webster’s improved production can also be linked to John Wall’s return to the starting lineup. Speaking of Wall, he’s been a monster of late, averaging 18.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 7.4 apg, 2.0 spg and 1.0 bpg this month. Over those seven games, he’s even shooting 47.1 percent from the floor and 85.7 percent from the line, possessing more fantasy value than LeBron James. Wall has even hit two three pointers over the past three games, matching his total over his previous 64 contests (and just one fewer than he had all of last year on 39 fewer attempts). Wall joins the running theme of this column involving point guards whose fantasy value would quickly become through the roof if their jump shot improved, and it’s nice to see him back healthy (there was a legitimate worry about his knee, especially since he opted for rest over surgery).

Sticking with the Wizards, this is a pretty funny commentator moment. “They're saying it did not go.” To be fair, their announcers have been moved away from courtside.

Discussing “Women’s Day” at the capitol, Fox News decided to run this clip.

Since entering the starting lineup December 5, Larry Sanders has averaged a modest 9.6 ppg and 1.2 apg while shooting 59.4 percent from the line. He’s also somehow been the 17th most valuable fantasy player over that span, thanks to 3.2 bpg, 0.8 spg, 9.8 rpg, 1.3 tpg and a 50.6 FG%. He’s 24 years old and remains raw, having never averaged even 15:00 mpg during either of his first two years in the league. And he continues to show growth, as he’s averaged 11.2 rpg and 3.4 bpg over the past two months. Sanders hasn’t been the most durable player this year but also hasn’t suffered any serious injuries, and it’s worth pointing out not only does his game have room to improve, but even while starting, he’s played just 28:00 mpg, so the potential here moving forward is massive. Sanders leads the NBA in blocks per game, and only one other player (Javale McGee, who fake autographed a ball this week after a swat) has seen fewer mpg. Sanders also did this after getting ejected from Wednesday’s game.

In case you missed it and/or are a fan of my random links, here’s my baseball column from earlier this week.

Here’s an exploding basketball.

After returning from a six-game absence thanks to a hamstring injury, Thaddeus Young has been tearing it up, averaging 19.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 2.1 spg and 0.5 bpg while shooting 59.7 percent from the floor this month, making him the 13th most valuable fantasy player in March. Young is in the midst of easily the best season of his career, yet his Usage Rate (19.80) is his lowest since 2008. Among small forwards, only LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have averaged more than Young’s 6.1 attempts at the rim this year, and he’s double-doubled in five of eight games this month. Young really needs to improve his free throw shooting, but his current 55.3 percent mark is well below what he shot at the charity stripe last season (77.1) in a similar amount of attempts, so if anything, just assuming he regresses to his career mark (69.8) moving forward while taking into account all his other gains, we could be looking at quite the fantasy asset.

Here’s Dirk Nowitzki temporarily forgetting how to shoot a basketball.

This Russell Westbrook half court shot was a bit unnecessary.

Quick Hits: What a crazy streak of injuries, from Kyrie Irving to Carmelo Anthony to Kobe Bryant. I’m not too happy having the latter two in my home league. Regarding whether or not Dahntay Jones’ play was dirty, check out this past play involving the two. At least Tyson Chandler’s knee injury isn’t nearly as bad as originally feared…Darren Collison was the 61st ranked fantasy player entering this month, but since then, he’s averaged just 8.2 ppg and 3.7 apg with a 38.1 FG%, losing his starting job and ranking 231st in fantasy terms in the process. Unfortunately, Collison looks droppable, and it’s not like his replacement Mike James is a must-add either…The top-five leaders in dunks this season: 1) Blake Griffin 2) Javale McGee 3) DeAndre Jordan 4) Dwight Howard 5) Tyson Chandler. LeBron James is sixth…Rajon Rondo still leads the NBA with five triple-doubles this season, while LeBron James and Kevin Durant are tied for second with three.

It’s unclear how real this commercial is, but it’s pretty entertaining nevertheless. It’s Jeff Gordon in disguise taking a “test drive” to the extreme.

Obviously, it takes more than the normal 30 seconds, but here’s another commercial that deserves credit - shouldn’t these be the ones that air during events like the Super Bowl?

Quick Hits Part Deux: When looking at Nicolas Batum’s 2012/13 numbers next year, don’t forget just how compromised he was over the final couple of months with his wrist injury. He was the ninth ranked fantasy player over the first 38 games this season. After suffering the injury, he’s ranked 54th…Kobe Bryant “leads” the NBA with 14 technicals, while Kevin Durant is second with 13, and DeMarcus Cousins and J.R. Smith are tied for third with 12. Players are suspended after receiving their 16th technical foul…After never averaging more than 11.0 ppg in any month this season (not counting October since it was one game), Roy Hibbert has averaged 16.8 ppg in March, shooting 56.3 percent from the floor, which is more than 10.0 percent better than any other. The blocks have been nice, but this has been a long time coming for his fantasy owners, as after signing a max contract during the offseason, Hibbert’s 10.7 ppg and 1.4 apg have been his lowest since his rookie season, while his 43.5 FG% has easily been a career worst.

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